Both Christie’s and Sotheby’s have held this Autumn what amount to successful demonstration sales in Mainland China. Now Christie’s is embarking on a similar strategy in Mumbai with its first sale in India on December 19th. The event has some substantial works by V.S. Gaitonde and Tyeb Mehta as well as a number of lower-priced images meant to appeal to the growing ranks of Indian rich. Colin Gleadell puts a figure on that saying there are more than 1700 persons in India worth more than $50m. That’s what is attracting Christie’s as well as the advantage of having the Gandhy collection which Hugo Weihe discusses here:
Christie’s has noticed an increase in art buying activity by wealthy resident Indians and believes that they would rather buy within the country than abroad. It’s a matter of convenience geographically, it gets around the restrictions on overseas spending, and it reduces the cost of transport and import tax, which currently stands at about 15 per cent. Their research also showed that local auctioneers, Pundole’s, Saffronart, and Astaguru, were beginning to report steady results with a joint turnover in the first six months of 2013 of 7.4 million dollars – which is not bad considering there was no auction market in India five years ago.
Christie’s had been thinking about conducting a sale in India for a couple of years when they were presented with the opportunity to auction 50 works from the collection of the recently deceased Mumbai gallery owners, Kekoo and Korshed Gandhy. The Gandhys had been in business since the 1940s and their collection includes works by internationally established artists (Raza, Mehta, Husain) as well as those known only by the Indian cognoscenti.
Another section of the sale is for works by historic figures such as Amrita Sher-Gil and Rabindranath Tagore that are considered national treasures and cannot be exported. Then there are some star lots have been sent from America by a collector who bought them in 2009 and thinks he is more likely to get his money back selling them in India than anywhere else.